Volume 36 Number 5 | October 2022
K. Lindsey Davenport-Landry, DCLS, MLS(ASCP)CM, ASCLS Region VI Director
There is a continuing need to advocate for our profession—not only for our laboratory community, but also for ourselves. There are Facebook groups saying we do not get the respect we deserve; news segments discussing the shortage of (laboratory) staff to perform testing; and most hospital administrations do not see a money maker in their basement—they see an expensive service.
While the majority of these negative feelings are generalizations, the sentiment still has to come from somewhere. What the laboratory professional is seeing isn’t a lack of appreciation for the work we do on a daily basis, but we are facing challenges of being a mystery role within healthcare. Our role is important, but if nobody recognizes that, how important is it?
Of course these are generalizations, and not every hospital and community fail to appreciate what we in the laboratory community do every day. But the average person does not know what our profession is, let alone the importance of our role in healthcare.
Imagine this scenario to further demonstrate our struggle: The hospital you work at has a monthly meeting where major medical disciplines have representation to review and approve hospital policies, but the laboratory is not a member. A policy was approved where incorrect information about what occurs when a critical PTT value in a patient on unfractionated heparin is discovered on an off shift. The policy approved did not mention the new test, Heparin (Anti-Xa), that should be used to monitor heparin therapy that aligned with the heparin algorithm approved by the pharmacy committee the previous year. This incongruency and gap in the policies created a patient safety event where a post-surgical patient continued to receive unfractionated heparin because the Heparin (Anti-Xa) test result was not performed and thus did not trigger a review of the heparin dosing. The laboratory leadership was asked why this policy had not been reviewed to ensure it was correct prior to being published. The laboratory leadership realized that they were not being included in reviews and policy making discussions. And the laboratory should have a seat on this committee. Note this is a fabricated scenario, but completely possible.
“Advocating for the laboratory may not always be an easy task but the more you do it, the more naturally the skills come and the easier it gets.”
There is a lot of information available about advocating for our profession on the websites for ASCLS, AACC, and ACLA. Most information is focused on why the conversations need to occur, how to start a conversation, and the desired outcomes. But what is our responsibility after we have the attention of the targeted audience? When we have someone listening, what do we do next?
1. Engage the Audience
One way of communication is through storytelling; sharing an experience or a personal story often are ways to connect with someone. Depending on the audience, how you share your story can drive future interactions. Having the audience know what your role is in the medical laboratory and how you serve the patients and the common good is important to making a connection to their understanding of the laboratory. Ask a question to begin the conversation. For instance, “What do you see as the barriers to allowing a medical laboratory scientist to being a member on this interdisciplinary team?” Find out what the perceived barriers may be, so it is possible to answer questions and respond to the concerns. Share a story; was there a recent patient safety event that could have been avoided if a medical laboratory scientist was a member of this committee? Urging a person to engage will create a more active listener and ideally drive the dialog forward.
2. Provide Ideas and Solutions
After you have the attention of your audience, it is important not only to listen to what they have to say, but also to have your ideas and solutions ready to present. This will provide them a basis for how they can help you achieve your goal. If you are speaking with leadership about adding a member to the committee, come prepared on how the leadership can help this goal be completed. Bring data; gather information on interdisciplinary teams and how laboratory involvement on policy committees can improve compliance with CAP and Joint Commission standards. Have information to support your ideas, and also provide alternative options to these ideas. For instance, if they do not want a supervisory medical technologist on the committee, maybe a quality assurance technologist providing input would be acceptable. Having options ready gives the person/group different ways to provide support of the idea.
3. Follow Through
Providing ideas and solutions is simply not enough to complete your objectives. One of the final and most important pieces to moving your idea into action is the follow through. You will need to stay in steady contact with other stakeholders to help move your ideas into actions. These stakeholders have other responsibilities so your project may not always remain on their radar. Steady communication helps in numerous ways:
- Ensures focus on steps necessary to move project forward
- Allows for exchange of ideas to make sure project will work with the various groups
- Affirms your commitment to the success of the project
Ideas are plentiful and easy to produce; actions and actualizing results take much more time and planning. Start by showing up to meetings. Be present and a good representative of your department. Listen and learn the flow of other leaders and try to understand the challenges they may be facing. And finally, have a voice—for yourself, as a representative of your department, and as a clinical laboratory professional. Advocating for the laboratory may not always be an easy task but the more you do it, the more naturally the skills come and the easier it gets.
After you have had the opportunity to discuss your goal, and the possibilities which are available moving forward, you will then have to do the work to get your plan enacted. If you get questions from the audience, find the answer. Most importantly, show up, be present, and have a voice.
4. Reassessment and Reconfiguration
A final consideration to ensure a successful project is to take some time to evaluate and reassess how things have gone after some time has passed. Consider a three-week retrospective review to see if anything was left open and what items could be improved in the future. Continue to listen to feedback and at a three- to six-month period, consider making necessary changes to further align to what your original vision was. Some projects never truly end but getting them in motion is the hardest part.
Remember that advocating for the laboratory may not always be an easy task and working towards a goal may take time. Creating an environment where the laboratory and the intended audience feel comfortable engaging in discussion is important. Be the advocate the laboratory community needs.
K. Lindsey Davenport-Landry is Chief Medical Technologist at Iowa City VAHCS, in Iowa City, Iowa.